Standardbred. Those who love the breed know that there's nothing "standard" about these horses. They're the greatest horses alive. But, have any of my fellow Standardbred lovers stopped to think that the breed's name might be inhibiting their acceptance into mainstream horse society? What do people new to this breed hear or think or even know about it? Do they equate the word “standard” (bred) to “normal” or “average”? Do they assume our horses are common and ordinary? What emotions are stirred when you hear the word standard? (As an adjective, standard is defined as "used or accepted as normal or average." Some synonyms are usual, typical, stock, common and ordinary.)
We know that the name's origin comes from being able to trot a mile in two and a half minutes as the standard of speed, something to be proud of! And, sure, you and I both know that these creatures are amazingly athletic, talented, versatile and forgiving, but how do we educate others? Promoting the breed is an uphill battle. They're bred for speed, not looks. Although today's Standardbreds are a far cry from the stereotypical "juggies," a majority of people still think that these horses are big-headed animals, wrapped in plain bay wrappers with a funny gait. They come in several shapes and sizes, available in various shades of bay, brown, black, grey and chestnut.
Like their Thoroughbred cousins, Standardbreds are abundantly available when racing season comes to a close. Unfortunately, unlike off-track Thoroughbreds who have a market for second careers in other arenas, many Standardbreds are turned to Amish road horse life. So, what can I do? What can we do?
Talk. Talk to anyone who will listen. Tell them about your off-track Standardbred. How easy was he to retrain to saddle? What breed does he get confused with? (I have one who is constantly thought to be a QH.) How is he around kids and beginners? What is he like on the trail? What second career has he picked up? Maybe if we all talk enough, people will start to listen. Get out there and ROC your Standardbred people!
***Image pictured above is not mine and is an 1891 fair poster, titled “Neck and Neck,” shows a harness racing, an attraction that has remained popular for more than 150 years. Courtesy of Al Gruling. See more at: http://www.gazettextra.com/article/20100830/ARTICLES/308309951#sthash.CJRfzRjG.dpuf